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Belgian GP Results: Wet-Dry Sprint in Spa-Francorchamps

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Written by Tatsbhita Reva, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Max Verstappen during the 2022 Spanish GP. Credit: Photo by Vladimir Rys via Red Bull Racing on Twitter.

Following a new qualifying format for Sprint-race weekends, Max Verstappen secured pole position, with a staggering lap time of 1:49.056 – beating the splendid up-and-rising rookie Oscar Piastri by only 0.011 seconds. Carlos Sainz qualified third, only 0.025 seconds off Verstappen’s time in the shootout.

Spa-Francorchamps was predicted to be drenched in rain the entire race weekend, leaving F1 drivers voicing their concerns regarding the terrible weather. After a lengthened delay prior to the start, the sprint race got underway. “Total mess this weekend,” as put into the words of the Mercedes driver, George Russell, in his interview with F1 TV.

The 15 lap sprint race, shortened to 11 laps due to four prior formation laps behind the safety car, saw the battle for points unfold. Despite a then-dry track for the Sprint Shootout, it began to rain at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps before the Sprint race. As the safety car entered the pits, Piastri was first to follow into the pits – shifting onto intermediates. With Verstappen and Charles Leclerc pitting later on, the Australian rookie Piastri led the Sprint.

Fernando Alonso was out of the race on lap four, spinning into the gravel trap at Pouhon, the safety car returning to the track. With the green flag waved once more, on lap six, Verstappen chased Piastri, his eyes fixated on first place.

Piastri’s defense down the Kemmel straight provided an opening for the Dutch driver to take the lead of the race; a smooth overtake after quite a bit of a struggle, with no DRS (Drag Reduction System) available on the wet track. On the same lap, Lewis Hamilton collided with Sergio Pérez’s Red Bull at turn 15, resulting in a 5-seconds time penalty given to the British driver.

Hamilton and Pérez pre-collision. Credit: Formula 1 on Twitter.

Perez had no rear-grip, from the contact with Hamilton, and Sainz in the Ferrari managed to overtake him down towards the Eau Rouge. Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari squeezed past at Les Combes, followed by Lando Norris’ McLaren. Pérez’s already miserable afternoon worsened as he slid through the gravel. The damage sustained by Pérez’s Red Bull from the earlier collision necessitated him to retire his car by Lap nine. In the last two laps of the Sprint, Daniel Ricciardo lost his position to George Russell’s Mercedes, better traction onto the main straight giving the latter an easier chance of overtaking at La Source.

The final lap of Spa Sprint ended with Verstappen showing his dominance on track, raising his still-undefeated number of consecutive victories to nine (including sprints). Piastri netted his maiden top-two finish in Formula 1, followed by Pierre Gasly’s unlikely podium finish for Alpine.

Oscar Piastri during the post-race interview. Credit: Formula 1 on Twitter.

During the post-race interview, when asked about the brief wheel-to-wheel encounter that led him to be overtaken by Verstappen, Piastri told Naomi Schiff: “I could not keep him behind on the straight.” All smiles for how the weekend went for Piastri as he resumed to say, “But to lead my first laps, it is a day I would not forget.”

With an outstanding performance from the Australian rookie, and swift pace coming from the McLaren, securing his first top three position in a Sprint seems unlikely to be his last. The Belgian Grand Prix this upcoming Sunday marks the last race before the summer break, with Leclerc in pole position, followed by Pérez and Hamilton on the front rows. Verstappen starts sixth, but will fancy an eighth-consecutive Grand-Prix victory, looking at his superb pace across the weekend.


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